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Fermanagh hunt new boss after Gallagher steps down

End game: Rory Gallagher has walked away after two years with Fermanagh
End game: Rory Gallagher has walked away after two years with Fermanagh
John Campbell

By John Campbell

The managerial toll which the Championship season has taken in Ulster has risen to three now that Rory Gallagher has parted company with Fermanagh.

In a not altogether unexpected move, Gallagher has called time on a two-year term in charge of the Erne County, the highlight of which came when his team reached last year's Ulster final in which they were beaten by Donegal.

The team were eventually ushered out of the All-Ireland qualifiers by Kildare (3-20 to 0-18) but, undeterred, Gallagher roused his team for the Allianz League this year in which they came close to making it into Division One having jumped up from Division Three last year.

They appeared to have put themselves into a strong position to take the big step up in the world but defeats to Meath and Armagh in their last two matches allowed Meath and Donegal to steal a march on them in the promotion race.

While disappointed that his side had failed to make what would have been viewed as a major breakthrough in the league, Gallagher reset his sights on the Ulster Championship, but his side lost to Donegal (0-15 to 0-9) before subsequently bowing out of the All-Ireland qualifiers to Monaghan (1-10 to 1-6).

In both matches, Fermanagh showed considerable enterprise and courage but were unable to impose themselves sufficiently on their opponents.

The game against Monaghan proved a particularly frustrating experience for Erne County followers indeed.

The Fermanagh county board has moved to thank Gallagher for his efforts on behalf of the county during his term in charge of the senior team.

In a statement, the board said: "We have been notified by Rory Gallagher that he is stepping down from the position of Fermanagh senior team manager.

"Fermanagh County Committee would like to thank Rory and his entire backroom team for all their hard work and commitment over the last two years.

"We acknowledge the progress made in respect of their work with the county team having reached the Ulster final in 2018 and gaining promotion to NFL Division Two in the same year, a status which was maintained in 2019.

"We wish Rory and all members of his backroom team every success for the future."

Gallagher was appointed as Fermanagh boss in succession to Peter McGrath in September 2017, just a month after resigning from his post as Donegal manager.

He had succeeded 2012 All-Ireland-winning boss Jim McGuinness in Donegal.

Gallagher, who also played at senior level for Fermanagh for seven years, also distinguished himself by winning an All-Ireland Club Championship medal with Belfast side St Gall's nine years ago.

He has been credited with bringing enhanced status to Fermanagh, although he was criticised in some quarters for what were perceived to be overly-defensive tactics.

He also introduced a number of new players to the Fermanagh side with considerable success including Ciaran Corrigan, Ultan Kelm, Jonny Cassidy and Kane Connor.

Former Tyrone All-Ireland-winning defender Ryan McMenamin has been No.2 to Gallagher during his term with Fermanagh and may possibly be considered as his successor at the county.

Malachy O'Rourke, who vacated his post with Monaghan just recently after seven seasons in charge, is a former Fermanagh player and manager and may come into the reckoning as a replacement for Gallagher.

But, given that O'Rourke has indicated that he intends to take a year out from football management, the lure of another stint in charge of his native county may not be enough to see him change his mind.

Monaghan appear to have drawn up a shortlist as the county board bids to fill the void left by O'Rourke, with former manager Seamus McEnaney understood to be the frontrunner to succeed him.

McEnaney was in charge of Monaghan prior to the arrival of O'Rourke, who graciously heaped praise on the former's work after the team had won the Ulster title in June 2013 in his first season in charge.

Derry too are engrossed in seeking a successor to now departed manager Damian McErlain, who stepped down just over a month ago having taken the county team into Division Three of the Allianz League.

It is believed that the Oak Leaf County may be in a position to unveil McErlain's successor in the near future.

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